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La Rambla is one of the must visit streets in Barcelona and is one of the biggest tourist hotspots making it a very busy place, particularly in the height of summer when the majority of tourists will visit. Running from the Placa de Catalunya square, this wide tree-lined boulevard runs towards the sea bringing you out at the port and close to the beaches.
The street has shops, restaurants and cafes lining it at either side and running down the centre of the road is a large paved walkway. Cars run up and down either side of this walkway so it is quite a noisy and bustling place to be. It's best explored on foot and there are loads of little tight winding streets branching off from La Rambla taking you to areas such as the Gothic quarter which is the prettiest part of Barcelona.
All along La Rambla's paved walkway there are stalls selling newspapers, magazines, food and souvenirs and there are loads of street performers from mime artists to human statues. The human statues are basically people who dress up and then stand for ages as a statue doing the odd move here and there to freak out passers by. If you want to get a photo of them you have to give them money as they are essentially street performers. We also seen people break dancing and they had created a lot of interest with lots of people who had stopped to watch them. Perhaps the best known place to visit on this street is the famous market, La Bouqueria, which is renowned for it's vast and quirky selection of produce. This is most definately a place you must visit on La Rambla. There are lots of places to eat on this street too but they tend to be quite overpriced compared to other cafes located down the quaint side streets.
Barcelona has a bit of a reputation for having a lot of pick pockets in the big tourist areas and although I never directly felt threatened as I was in a group, I did keep a tight hold of my bag and never kept anything in a pocket where it could easily be swiped. Every city has to deal with criminal activity such as this and so it's unfair to tar Barcelona as the only place where this happens. It's a really pleasant place to visit and a great place for a stroll on a warm summers day. There will always be something going on there.
I must say that at night, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night, there is a definate change and I would recommend that you go elsewhere to dine out or go to a bar - the harbour and the Gothic quarter are much better for this. After dark, especially when there are a few drunk tourists around, the street is literally packed with prostitutes and they can be scarily aggressive. As we were there with another 2 couples it wasn;t so bad but I did spot 2 guys who had obviously had a few beers make the mistake of showing interest in one girl. Within around 30 seconds they were surrounded by around 20 prositutes and you could see them trying to get their hands into their pockets. Any male walking along on his own faces being hounded by these girls - a lot of them seemed to sadly be young girls. The street did have quite a big Police presence but they don't seem to do anything about it.
Needless to say we went elsewhere for out nights out and I would advise this to anyone else visiting Barcelona. But in the daytime, no visit to Barcelona would be complete without a trip to this lively street.
False eyelashes seem to have taken off in a really big way in recent years and everyone seems to be wearing them - from celebrities to the average girl on the high street. I'm not a fan of fakery at all and prefer a more natural look so I always though false eyelashes were, frankly, a bit weird, cheap and tarty looking. I suppose I'm lucky that I have good eyelashes already and they are quite thick and long already so I never really considered wearing false lashes. On a shopping trip out with my Mum, she was looking at them saying she would like to try them just to see what they're like but didn't like the idea of putting something on her eye. A girl shopping in the store overheard us and began chatting about how easy they are to use and so I bought a set of these Nadine lashes spur of the moment. They sat in my makeup bag for several weeks before I thought of trying them.
The Eyelure Girls Aloud Lash range have a set of lashes each designed with one of the members of Girls Aloud in mind. I chose the Nadine ones as I thought they were the most natural looking out of the five and they cost me £5. The packaging is a black cardboard box with a picture of Nadine and a clear window through which you can see the lashes inside. Inside the box you have the 2 lashes clearly marked as left and right, a tube of the lash glue and an instruction leaflet. The Nadine lashes are graduated in length and so they are thicker and longer at the outer corners of the eye. The lash has a natural curve to it which should follow the curve of your lashline.
Before applying any glue, you take the lash and hold it to your lashline to check the fit. If it's too long then just trim a few individual lashes from the inner part to make them fit properly. When your ready to apply, take the glue and with the little applicator inside run the glue along the base of the false lash. It is a white colour before it dries so you can see how much and where you've put it easily and you don't really need a lot of it at all - a thin coating will be enough. Give the lash a few waves about in the air (which just makes the glue start to set and it goes a bit stickier) then apply to your lashline. The lashes should just sort of fall into the correct position but you want the base of the false lash to stick onto the base of your natural eyelashes, not the skin of the base of your eyelid as I made the mistake of doing at first. The glued part should stick on the bit of your eyelid where the lash meets the skin - before the glue dries you can push the lash right into place directly on top of your natural lashline. Tweezers can be useful here to move them into place. Then gently press and hold the lash for a few seconds to let it set into place. Once set you can gently adjust the curl of the lash by pushing it up.
I find it easier to apply the false lashes as the finishing touch i.e. when you have finished applying your eyeshadow and mascara. The false lashes are already black and so they don't need mascara on them. It also helps if you wear black eyeliner on the top lid to disguise the false lash as without it you can sometimes make out the false lashline.
I was quite pleasantly surprised at the result with the Nadine lashes. My lashes looked longer, fuller and perfectly shaped but were not overly fake looking. In fact, at first no one noticed I was wearing false lashes until I told them I was - it actually looks surprisingly natural. Some false eyelashes can look ridiculously fake and these are definately not the ones to buy if you're after that kind of look.
To take the lashes off, gently loosen the inside corner of them with your nail, grasp the false lash with your finger and gently pull them off. It's not the most pleasant feeling but it doesn't hurt and if you're gentle then it won't rip out your own lashes. Or you can put some eyemakeup remover onto some cotton wool and then place over your eye for a minute which will loosen the glue and make it easier to pull off. I found that the lashes stayed on really well throughout the night and didn't come loose at all so the glue appears to be very good.
Overall I was quite impressed with these lashes. They are definately not something I would wear everyday or even regularly but for a night out or special occassion they are fun and look good. It means your lashes stay looking perfect when if you were just wearing mascara on your natural lashes they can tend to look a bit flat after a few hours. The lashes can be reused if you take care of them and pick off all the old glue on them but I think after 2 or 3 wears they really need to be replaced as they lose their shape a little. They are quite sturdy and aren't overly delicate so you don't need to worry about ripping them too much.
The Braehead Shopping Centre caused a bit of a fuss in the local area when it opened as it was the first major mall constructed in the Renfrewshire area. It's located just outside Glasgow on the outskirts of the small town of Renfrew and is easily reached from the M8 motorway or by the Clyde Tunnel. The building itself is made of a lot of silvery metals & materials and it has an undulated roof shape so is quite modern looking. The area in which it's situated is like a large shopping estate itself and you have Ikea, Xscape, Sainsbury's, Next, Halfords and a few computer shops which stand alone and separate from the Braehead shopping centre building itself.
There are 3 entrances to the mall; one in the centre and one at each end. You will find a good amount of parking spaces and there are a few multi storey carparks to deal with an overflow of heavy traffic but generally, you can find a space reasonably near the door. There are well placed disabled spaces and dedicated parking spots for parents with small children although they don't seem to be as well monitored as they could be and so a lot of times you will see people abusing these spaces when they aren't entitled to use them. The car parks are well posted from the main roads and unless it's a busy Saturday or a peak time in the run up to Xmas you can usually get a space straight away.
Inside the shopping centre, you will find 2 levels of shops. On the first floor you have stores such as M&S (which is a large branch and extends over 2 floors), River Island, Primark, New Look, Boots, GAP (which I believe is currently closing down), Topshop, Monsoon, Superdrug, numerous jewellers, Lipsy, Sports Soccer, HMV, Waterstones, GAME and a few card shops. The distance between the stores along the mall hallway is not too far and I would guess it takes under 3 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The hallway and central atrium are clean and bright looking with a polished floor that is kept really clean thanks to the team of cleaning staff who keep on top of this. All along the mall you will find wooden seats and benches if you are in need of a rest and there are large plants dotted around the centre which add a nice touch. You always see staff constantly walking the floors keeping them clean.
To get to the second floor you can either use the escalators at either end of the mall or by using the lift or stairs located at the central part of the mall. The central part often has something going on in it like fashion shows, sales teams from large companies selling cars, beds or other items and is also where the Santa's Grotto is at Christmas. On the second floor you have more stores such as Dorothy Perkins, Topman, The Body Shop, Jane Norman, Oasis, Warehouse, Lush, Specsavers, H&M, G-Star Raw, Thorntons and a selection of jewellers and travel agents. You will also find a reception desk at the central part of the 2nd floor where you can buy gift vouchers or get information on job vacancies or general directions & questions.
Just off the central atrium you will find a foodcourt, Lloyds TSB bank and Regis hairdressers. The food court has KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, O'Briens and several counters selling Chinese, Italian, Fish & Chips and smoothies. These are spread across both floors and have escalators right next to them. Toilets are located just before the foodcourt on both floors and they are clean, well maintained and monitored.
The thing that annoys me about shopping malls is that it's always the same old shops in them. I get fed up with the same 5 shops where I can buy clothes and it just isn't the same as making a trip into Glasgow City centre where you have a much wider choice of stores. You won't find a lot of difference between shops at the Braehead compared to those at other malls anywhere in the UK. I do like the fact that in a mall you're not out in the freezing cold or rain to go from shop to shop and this is one of the benefits of Braehead. It does have a reasonable amount of shops inside so you're bound to find what your looking for and it is very clean and modern inside so it's a pleasant place to be in.
As the price of brand name washing gels & powders can be very expensive I had gotten into the habit of buying whatever was on special offer at the supermarket. Very often I would just buy the supermarket own make washing powder as I thought they all did the same thing and it wasn't worth spending a lot of money for what at the end of the day was just soap. I do like my clothes to smell nice so I would always buy separate fabric conditioner which would cost an additional £2-3 at times. Luckily I purchased this on special offer and liked it so much that I now always buy it. You can pick up a 28 wash bottle for around £4 on special offer but it's rrp is more around the £6 mark.
Bold 2 in 1 gel is your cleaning and fabric conditioner in one. The packaging is nice and simple and it comes in a squeezy bottle with an attached cup which you put the gel into and then put it in the drum with your washing. The gel is a clear orange colour and is slightly viscous but still quite runny so it comes out the bottle really easily. As it's a squeezy bottle you don't get any spillage or mess and you can control the amount you need easily. It has a lovely fresh orange scent to it. I can't really pick out the pomegranate aroma but this may be due to the orange scent masking it. It's a nice fruity orange smell which isn't sweet or sugary but it smells very clean and fresh. Your clothes are left smelling very delicately of orange after washing and I find it removes dirt from clothes very well - much better than cheaper alternatives I've tried.
The bottle will last up to 28 washes but I find it goes a bit longer as you may only need half a capful for a half load of clothes. I think it's very good value for money as you don't need a separate fabric conditioner yet you don't compensate on the feel of your clothes as they still feel soft and smooth. I do think you get a nicer feel to your clothes with a separate fabric conditioner but I find this is good enough for me and I wouldn't waste the extra money buying it.
I always have cold feet so when I spotted these in M&S for a mere £5 I thought I'd give them a shot as they looked less restrictive than slippers. They come in a cardboard packet which is inserted inside the socks and you can get them in size small, medium and large. Being a size 5 I opted for the small size. I should think that the size doesn't have to be exactly accurate as they are very stretchy and so will accomodate a size bigger or smaller easily.
The slipper socks are made of a very soft and fluffy material which feels very cosy against the skin. Around the top you have a stretchy elasticated band which fits snugly over the foot and keeps the sock on. The elasticated band has a frilled lace-type detailing around it and it feels soft like satin, not too tight and very comfortable. The sole of the socks have little rubber patches on them, much like you get on Totes Toasties, which provide grip to the surface you are walking on. This is particulary useful on wooden, tiled or laminated floors where you can often slip when just wearing normal socks. The ones I purchased were black with pink spots but you can get a lot of different colours instore.
I found that these were very practical for pottering around the house doing dishes or washing due to the non slip sole and they didn't get in the way or fall off mid-way down the stairs like some slippers can. As such they are idea for both young persons and the elderly alike as they are very secure when on. The only issue I have with these is that they are just not warm enough for colder weather as they are quite thin and I still need to wear proper slippers then for the extra insulation. Also, if it's a cold night, the top part of your foot can get a bit cold as it's exposed to the cold air and so I think these are definately a summer item.
Overall, I think it was worth the £5 for these and I have worn them a lot and bought some as gifts. They would be ideal to take with you on a holiday as they would take up only the same space as a pair of socks. Plus they are nice and easy to pop on after a bath or shower and feel lovely and cosy.
I have owned a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor hi top shoes for several years now and I can still get away with wearing them as it seems that the more worn they appear then the cooler they look! You can pick these up in almost any store selling trainers or fashion shoes and they are priced between £30-40 for a standard pair. Due to the popularity of these shoes, you will see a huge amount of copycat versions by other labels and even imitation ones in stores such as Primark and New Look but you can always tell they are not Converse.
The Chuck Taylor Hi Top is a baseball boot named after a famous baseball player. They are made out of canvas and come in a variety of colours from the more traditional white and cream to the more eyecatching red and green. Around the toe you will have the trademark rubber cap detail which fixes on to the rubber sole which generally has a coloured stripe running along the side. On the back of the sole at the heel you have the Converse logo stamped into the rubber. The shoes lace up to ankle level and can be worn as tight or loose as you want but generally they are tight around the ankle unlike other Hi Top trainers you will see by sports brands such as Nike.
When I first tried these on I wasn't so keen as they made my feet look pretty huge and because they are so tight at the ankle it further emphasises the length of your foot. But you soon get used to the shape of them as it's onlywhen you're looking straight down at them that they look funny because they are a different shape to traditional trainers. They really are very comfortable and you could walk for miles in them but beware when it's raining as the canvas lets through water and if you stand in a puddle you will have wet feet. You can buy leather versions of these which would be better worn in wet weather but these are a bit more expensive.
As they are made of canvas it's really easy to just pop them in a wash if need be. In the summer the material can be a bit warm too so your feet might sweat a bit more than in a leather shoe but they're nice and light so are great to wear in summer. They are one of the few shoes that look good when they've been worn in and have a worn look to them - I've even seen students walking around with the odd hole in them and they still look pretty cool.
All in all it's easy to see why these are such a cult iconic shoe.
I bought these shoes for £18 on a spending spree at asos.com and have yet to wear the things! I have left it too late to return them but if I could I would.
The "Pocket" style shoe is a high heeled court shoe available in several different colours and materials. I purchased the ones shown in the picture which are black with a lace overlay all over the shoe and the back of the heel. The heel height of these measures 12.5cm (4 1/4 in) and the platform measures 2cm (0.12 in) which makes them high but not ridiculously so. Around the shoe opening is a patent trim detail which is a nice finish to them. They have a classic look to them which is understated but still fashionable.
My issue with these is that they are very big made and just didn't fit very well at all. My foot constantly slips out the back of them even when I wear gel heel plasters which supposedy stop this. I've tried to wear them several times but just couldn't as every step is a battle to keep my foot in them. I should perhaps have ordered a size smaller and this is what I would recommend to anyone buying them, especially if you have narrow feet. It's a shame as I really like them and they are great going out shoes. They're not the best quality in the world but for £18 you can't really complain - I just wish I'd got the smaller size or at least returned them.
Being a mere 5ft2in, I'm not very keen on wearing totally flat shoes as it makes me feel tiny! So I'm always on the look out for casual shoes or boots with a reasonably small heel to give my height a bit of a boost. I spotted these on the asos.com website and thought they would be ideal as they have a heel but it's disguised, however, the website had sold out of my size so I decided to pop to the ALDO store instead.
I had never purchased shoes from ALDO before but had walked past the store in Glasgow several times so I know it could be quite an expensive shop. At only £40 I thought this seemed like a reasonable price for a pair of boots which, although not leather, are the kind of boots you can wear with a lot of things.
The ALDO Swendsen boot comes in a variety of different colours and materials. You can buy them as a kind of knitted style (shown in the picture) in black, grey or tan or you can buy them in a more leather-look style in black and tan. I purchased the black leather-look style of these boots in my normal size UK5. It's much more of a charcoal black / dark grey colour than a jet black colour which give them a kind of worn look plus I found that this colour goes well with a lot of others and looks more casual than maybe a deep black boot would.
The boots are actually made of a coated canvas which looks like leather, but actually when I look up close to the material I can see the canvass pattern underneath the coating. Down the front of the boot you have a ruched detail which is fixed and gives a casual slouchy look to the boot. They sit very loose around the ankle and have an asymmetric cut which makes them higher at the front and lower at the back. This wide fitting around the ankle makes it easy to wear the boots with jeans and also helps in the putting on / taking off process. The concealed wedge heel disguised within the boot measures 6cm and is very solid and sturdy - it feels like wood underneath though it must be hollow in the centre as they don't weigh too much. With a rubber sole these shoes are very quiet to wear and you won't get any annoying clippity clop noises as you walk along.
When I first tried these on, I was surprised at how soft and spongey the insole was - it felt very thick, cushioning and comfortable. I think these boots could perhaps be a little on the small side especially for those with wider feet as they were very snug on me but after a bit of wear they seemed to stretch a bit. I think they are ment to be a bit tighter than average because the opening is so big so if they were too loose your feet would be slipping out all the time. As it's a wedge heel, they are actually quite comfortable but my one problem was that after wearing for a good 2-3 hours of walking about, my toe started to rub on a little bit of the inside on each foot so much so that I ended up with 2 tiny cuts on the 4th toe of each foot which was quite sore. I bought the little gel plasters to put on each toe which helped stop this and so I found them quite comfortable.
If I wear these without the gel pads then as long as I don't walk for a long time they're fine. If I was going to be doing any large amounts of walking or was going to be on my feet a long time then I would wear the gel pads with them as even through regular wear this part of the boot doesn't seem to have fixed itself. For they money I think these are great value - I've worn them so much already and plan to do so well into the spring so they were definately worth £40.
Situated roughly halfway down the famous boulevard of La Rambla, this delightful markethall is one of the must visit places in Barcelona. You would be forgiven for strolling past this place and passing it off as just another shop due to it's position nestled almost behind the shops surrounding it but as you walk in through the decorative metal archway you will be pleasantly surprised at just how big it is.
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or just simply La Boqueria, is considered to be one of the best markets in Europe and it is commonly said that if you can't find what your looking for here, you won't find it anywhere. Within the market hall are hundreds of stalls selling a diverse range of fresh produce and it is cram packed with both food and people, from local Catalans to tourists. Each way you turn your eyes can feast upon the bright colours of the products on sale and I've never been to a food market with such a wide range of items for sale.
Fruits and vegetables are of course a major staple item sold here along with fresh fish, shellfish and more exotic seafood such as squid, octopus and lobster. The butcher stalls offer a vast array of freshly butchered meat from beef, chicken, veal and I even seen skinned sheep heads for sale on one stall which was a bit unnerving as the eyes and teeth were still intact! Quite what you would do with that I don't know but I suppose it means nothing goes to waste here. Confectionary, nuts, spices, herbs - just about anything you can think of is on sale here. There are also little cafe stalls where you can get a fresh pastry or paella if you fancy a bite to eat. Prices are very reasonable but if you so wished I'm sure you could haggle a deal with the sellers if you have the gift of the gab!
This is definately a place to visit if you love fresh food or cooking though I must admit that as someone who doesn't really eat meat I was a bit put off by the sheep heads and in the summer the smell of the meat can be a bit overpowering because of the heat but I can appreciate that this is a much better way to buy your meat than in a supermarket as it is probably of a much better quality.
I've never been keen on tourist buses and would often snigger at the frozen faces on the open top deck thinking how daft they look. Well I'm proud to say that I was recently one of those passengers and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Barcelona bus is without a doubt one of the best ways to get around the city and take in all the sights. At 20 euro for a 1 day pass or 27 euro for a 2 consecutive day pass it's well worth the money as you can hop in and hop off as many times as you like. Placa de Catalunya is the main place to start your journey and there are ticket booths where you buy your pass then simply jump on a bus. They pass each stop every 15-20 mins so you don't need to be hanging around long at all. The last bus left Placa de Catalunia at 7.30pm and continued round the route.
There are 2 main Barcelona bus routes which leave from Placa de Catalunya - a red route and a blue route. Each route passes by different attractions within the city and these are shown on a map given to you with all the stops shown on it. All the main sights such as Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou, Montjuic park, and Port Vale are included along with a great deal of others which you may never have heard of before. You are also supplied with free headphones which will tell you about what your seeing as you pass and you will be informed of what each stop is for. Each stop has the Barcelona bus marker in the ground so you'll be able to find your way back onto the bus no problem at all. You can switch between the red and blue routes as many times as you want and there is a green route (which was closed at the time I was there) which takes you along the sea front. There is no limit as to how many times you get on or off.
I found that the buses were a rapid way to get around and the stops are superbly placed letting you off right at the door of what you want to see. The top deck can get a little chilly in the winter so a hat, scarve and gloves are a good idea but I can imagine in the warm summer months this brings a welcome relief! Along with the bus driver, there is also a staff member on hand at the door to check your tickets but also to help with any questions you might have. They spoke fluent English as well as Spanish/Catalan and were very friendly. The bus headphones will narrate in numerous different languages too so they really are well catered for tourists.
The Sagrada Familia, or to give it it's proper title, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in the world and it's easy to see why. It really is a stunning creation which, although not even finished, will amaze you. You can see it on the Barcelona skyline as you drive in from the ouskirts of the city but you really have to see it to appreciate is's size and architecture. It is located just off Avenue Diagonal in the very heart of the city and can be easily reached by bus, taxi, metro or on foot being about a 10-15 minute walk from La Rambla.
As with several buildings in Barcelona, this was designed and constructed by the late Antoni Gaudi who's influence can be seen throughout the city. It's construction was begun in the 1880's and still continues to this day - the evidence of this being the ever present cranes which tower above. It is actually a Roman Catholic church which was consecrated by the Pope and is used by local worshippers for services. Gaudi only ever seen one face of the building completed before his death in 1926 in a tram accident and since then donations from the public and ticket sale profits have been used to continue the building process with a view to completing it by 2026, the centenial of Gaudi's death.
There are 3 main faces to the building. The oldest is devoted to the "nativity" of Christ and depicts scenes of his birth and life. Opposite to this is the "passion" facade which depicts the crucifixion and resurection of Christ and the third facade is "glory" which shows the ascention to heaven or hell. Gaudi's love of nature can be seen throughout with numerous references from cypress trees to animals throughout. Although I am not a religious person I could still appreciate the symbolism and significance of the sculptures and stonework and they are so intricate and detailed. Atop the Sagrada Familia currently stand 8 huge towers which represent 8 of the 12 Apostles. Plans are to add a further 4 towers for all the Apostles and a larger tower representing the Virgin Mary and an even larger tower to represent Christ. The towers are heavily detailed and are peaked with colourful symbolisms and words.
Entrance to the Sagrada Familia costs 12.50 euro per person and this allows you to get into the main part of the church and to ascend one of the towers to take in views over the city. Annoyingly, the day I visited there the towers were closed so I never managed to get into the place however I'm sure the insdes of the church are just as elaborate as the outside.
Any visit to Barcelona would not be complete without seeing this masterpiece as it really is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. Even those who have no religious beliefs will marvel at how impressive the Sagrada Familia is and it will be one of the highlights of your visit.
Hard Rock Cafe are a chain of American diner style restaurants which are commonly found in many large cities around the world. They offer food and drink served in a rock and roll atmosphere which is quite loud and bustling. It is located right at the top of La Rambla on the Placa de Catalunya so is very easily found.
We decided to go in for a drink one Thursday night and it was very busy indeed both with locals and tourists alike. The bar area has seats all round it but they were all taken so we asked if there was somewhere we could sit to have our drinks which proved to be a bit of a problem. They are not keen to have you sitting in there for a drink unless you're buying food even if there are empty tables but we eventually got a table. The cocktails were priced from 8 euros up to nearly 20 euro for a massive one so it certainly wasn't cheap but they were very nice.
The food in here tends to be the usual burgers, steaks and other grill-style items you find in places such as TGI Fridays and other diner type restaurants here in the UK. I never had any food so can't comment on it's quality but they have a big selection to choose from.
We never went back to the cafe for the duration of our stay as it just wasn't what we were looking for and I found the staff to be quite rude and unfriendly. To go to this place for food in Barcelona would be a travesty as there are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from in the city offering outstanding food. There's nothing about this place making it special or tailored to Spain at all so don't expect anthing different from other Hard Rock Cafes you may have visited.
I recently visited the L'Aquarium which is situated at the harbour region of Barcelona and is easily reached by walking down the main La Rambla towards the sea or by getting the tourist bus which drops you off right at the door. The building itself is a large circular shape and it looks very modern and well maintained. As it's next to the harbour it overlooks the water and the many boats and yachts so it's a nice setting.
It cost 18 euro to get in but as we had bought the tourist bus pass we were given a booklet which entitled us to discounts in the city attractions so I paid 16 euro instead. Children get in a at a reduced rate of 10-11 euro and students can also get a 10% discount. Tickets are purchased at a booth next to the entrance.
When you walk into the aquarium there are lockers which cost 1 euro and allow you to leave anything you don't want to carry round with you. You then head down a leafy walkway into the darker aquarium area. The first section consists of a long hallway with tanks of sealife at either side. They have a reasonable selection of fish, shellfish, starfish, seahorses and rays with information plates next to each tank describing the creatures inside. I was a little concerned that the tanks were a little on the small side with not a lot of room for them to move around but I'm sure they have marine biologists working there who design the habitats so I'm sure they're quite happy. The hallway is quite dark with the tanks lit up but the kids in there seemed to be enjoying it. You may take photographs but are asked to not use the flash of your camera so as not to frighten the animals (which 60% of people ignored and had their cameras flashing right into the tanks). You will aso find a little screening room where you can watch documentares on sea animals which is free to do.
Next, you move through to the main part of the aquarium which is the glass tunnel. It goes round a huge tank in a circular shape and you step onto a little travelator belt which slowly takes you round the tank. Inside are sharks, sting rays, and a variety of large sea fish. They had a good 4-5 large sharks in the tank so you're guaranteed to get a good look at one. This section takes around 10-15 mins to go round.
After this you move through to a large darkened room which contains a penguin section and tanks containing piranahs. There is a lot of interactive things for kids to learn about the environment and keeping the sea clean and they seemed to be enjoying it. Once walking through this you are brought out to the cafe area which has a fast food section and a small kids play area. They will also have a photo of your group which was taken upon walking into the aquarium that you can choose to purchase if you wish.
As with all attractions such as this, to get out you have to go through the gift shop which sells a variety of soft toys, keyrings, pens, magnets and other small trinkets.
Overall I think that this attraction was a bit overpriced at nearly 50euro for 2 adults to enter but it was enjoyable. If you have never been to an aquarium before or you have kids who haven't then I'm sure it would be an enjoyable experience but to be honest it was very similar to other aquariums I've been in. I wouldn't say it was a must visit and there are plenty of other things to see in Barcelona which I would rather go to but it's definately one for the kids.
I have just returned from a 5 night stay at this hotel (Jan 2011) and I was most impressed by not only the hotel itself, but by it's location within the bustling city of Barcelona. The NH Duc de la Victoria is a 3* hotel and we paid around £130 per person for the entire stay. NH have several hotels within the city but this one is ideally located within the centre of the city.
The hotel is situated just off the main La Rambla boulevard and is literally a 2 minute walk from the Placa de Catalunya. We reached the hotel by taxi from the Estacio Nord which cost 10-15 euro and took around 10-15 mins to get to, then just a few minutes walk down one of the beautiful winding streets gets you to the hotel. With 156 rooms it's a large hotel but it is perfectly disguised and blends in with the surrounding architecture perfectly. The hotel has 24 hr reception and security at all times so it feels very safe and well looked after.
You enter off the street into a lovely bright marbled reception with sofas, computer access and plenty of leaflets and information on places to go. There are 3 lifts all side by side so you won't have to wait long at all for one to come and there is usually always one sitting open when you enter. I stayed on the second floor however there are 5 floors - most rooms have balconies but some do not however we emailed before going to request a balcony which they kindly arranged. All the hallways are spotless and very modern and expensive feeling so it's a pleasant journey to your room.
The rooms are immaculate and really smart and stylish. The room I stayed in had wooden flooring which looked solid wood and not laminate. We had a large mirrored wardrobe, desk, flat screen tv, adjustable temperature air conditioning, telephone, paper & pen and dry cleaning bags in the room and two very large spacious twin beds pushed together. The beds were extremely clean, comfortable and could be slept on as a huge double bed or as 2 seperate but bigger than average single beds. We had a glass door which opened onto the balcony with both a thin voile curtain and a thick fabric curtain so you can choose to make the room extra dark when sleeping. There was also a minibar in the room containing water, soft drinks, mini alcohol assortments and a few snacks. As with any hotel minibar the prices are a bit high (3 euro for a bottle of water) so we just put our own bottles in it. There is also a menu for a local pizza company who you can order a pizza from to your room. You also have a personal safe in the room which opens with a pin of your choice.
The bathroom was very clean and modern and contained a hairdryer, complementary toiletries (shower gel, soap, toothbrush and mini toothpaste, shower cap and sponge) which were actually really quite nice and plenty of fresh towels. it had a nice big mirror in it too which was great for getting ready. The shower over the bath was very good and was warm instantly as was the hot water in the sink and you can run a bath in no time at all. If you needed fresh towels you simply leave the dirty ones in the bath and they are changed by the maid when you're out.
Buffet breakfast is available from 7am to 12pm daily at a cost of 15 euro per person. We got our own food so I never tried the food here but the dining room looked like a really nice place to eat.
The cleaning staff are fantastic too and you won't hear a peep from them if you put the do not disturb sign on the door. When you go out and come back the room is immaculate once again so they're excellent at what they do. Reception staff are very friendly and welcoming and will help with any questions about where to go for food or to see sights and they speak English fluently for those of us not too familiar with Catalan.
As for the location, you can't beat this hotel. Not only is it a stones throw from La Rambla, it is located in the gothic quarter which is the old section of the city so you have all these beautiful winding streets filled with shops, cafes and restaurants on your doorstep. Everytime you go round a corner there's a beautiful church or building to see. Tourist buses leave from the Placa de Catalunia which take you round the city so this is an ideal location to see the sights. You can easily stroll down to the beach or to the famous Sagrada Familia within 10-15 mins or take the metro if you're feeling lazy! Although it's so close to the busy La Rambla you hear no noise pollution so it's very peaceful and quiet - I was never woken up by traffic noise or peoples voices or by anything other than my alarm.
Overall I can't rate this hotel highly enough and wouldn't hesitate to stay here again if I were to return to Barcelona. One of the most pleasant hotels I've stayed in and great value for money.
Having just returned from holiday to Barcelona and flying with Ryanair, I feel compelled to share my experience and hopefully offer some advice to anyone considering travelling with them. For those not familiar with the company, Ryanair are an Irish low fare airline who fly mainly within Europe to over 150 destinations. You can book flights with them via their website and check in online (which I'll go into later) and they guarantee to give fares with no fuel surcharge.
*THE BOOKING PROCESS*
This is relatively straightforward on their website. You select where you want to travel from and to and the dates and you will be taken to a screen displaying the prices per person for each flight. The prices are shown as a weekly view so you can scan to see if there are dates which are cheaper at either side of the dates you have put in. Special offer flights are shown in a yellow box and these include flights with no online check in fee or with no taxes. Prices can range from a few pounds per flight to around £40-50 depending on the time of year or demand for seats but if you are flexible with dates you can usually find something really cheap. You book the flights and are sent an email receipt.
Ryanair have additional charges for practically everything except for the air you breathe and use of a toilet which are currently free. The price shown for the flights is not the price you will pay - you have to factor in the online check in fee (£5 per person each way) and any taxes they will levy but these will be shown to you quite clearly. You must pay for any hold luggage you wish to take (£15 per case per flight) and it's a good idea to do it at the time of booking as if you just turn up for the flight with hold baggage you will be charged a hefty fee. Another service you can pay for is the priority boarding (£6 per person per flight) which (supposedly) gets you onto the plane first as Ryanair do not have an allocated seating policy.
Before you fly, you must check in online which involves entering your passport number on their website and printing out a boarding pass. Why they charge you £5 for this must surely be borderline illegal as you are not using any of their resources but you have to do it. If you don't turn up with the boarding card they charge £40 to print you one at the airport and remember to do it for your return journey too or the same £40 fee will apply. If you are checking in a hold bag you go to the bag drop desk to hand it in - the allowance for this is 15kg. You may take one bag with you onto the flight but this cannot be over 10kg and must fit the dimensions 55cm/40cm/20cm. This one bag must contain all your carry on items - ladies can't have a separate handbag along with it.
This is without a doubt the most hideous part about flying with Ryanair and is nothing short of a shambles. From the minute you get through baggage a queue will develop and once the gates open it's every man for themselves. This isn't so much caused by the staff but by the obnoxious general public who the majority of wouldn't think twice about trampling a child out of the way if it ment they'd get on the plane first. The staff do very little to control the free for all and once on the plane there will be a mad rush of people trying to squeeze their bags into the overhead lockers. If you're travelling in a group or couple be prepared to be seated at different aisles if you're not at the front of the queue. The priority boarding supposedly allows you to get onto the plane first - this worked for my outbound flight but inbound it was pointless as they just let everyone through at once so it was pretty pointless paying for it.
As you would expect, you get what you pay for. The planes are very modern though and feel sturdy and safe but don't expect any frills. There are no tv's or music stations so be prepared to bring something to entertain yourself. From the moment the aircraft wheels leave the ground the cabin crew spring into their sales mode and stride up and down the aisles with something to sell to you. Food, drinks, lottery tickets and duty free products which are vastly overpriced but I suppose this is true of most airlines. It's a boring flight and I would strongly recommend you carry an ipod or a good book but all in all I found it to be what I expected. Upon landing you will hear a fanfare recording play proclaiming that it's another "flight with Ryanair to arrive on time" as if this is something to be celebrated and is not what you're paying for.
What you would expect from a low fares airline. They are dressed in nasty blue suits and don't seem to make any effort with their appearance. One girl I saw had a blue suit, black shoes and brown tights - yes I know it's not a fashion show but it's not professional to look scruffy. They are generally pleasant but they don't really put any effort into customer service unless you look interested in buying something from them.
If you play by their rules, that is, stick to the cary on bag weight and size, take your own food/drink onboard and ignore all their additional extra services you'll get a cheap flight. It's not the most pleasant of experiences but I like to think of it as a flying bus. Don't expect great service or to be seated next to your partner/group and prepare to stand your ground with other flyers who care only about getting their selfish selves onto the best seats first.
I flew from Glasgow Preswick to Girona (Spain) and had paid for the priority boarding both ways. On the flight out this was great - there was a separate priority queue and we were allowed to board first and get seats together. On the way back there was no separate priority queue and everyone was boarded first come first served - when I asked one of the ground staff I was told it's "not my problem"! I would only pay for priority boarding on a flight out of the UK as noone else seems to care about it and it's a waste of money.